• Marketing To Millennials And Other Skeptical Customers? Make Will Ferrell Your Gen-Y Consultant

    I know it’s been a while since Christmas, so I’ll do the recap. In the movie “Elf,” Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a Santa’s Helper now landed in Manhattan after a sheltered North Pole existence.

    One day, Buddy spots a sign at a downscale NYC café claiming to be the home of the WORLD’S BEST CUP OF COFFEE.

    “You did it!” he tells the startled restaurant workers. “Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”

    Ferrell returns later to the café to share his discovery with his love interest, played by Millennial-generation (born 1980) actress Zooey Deschanel.

    She tastes the coffee, gives Ferrell a look, and tells him it tastes like a “crappy cup of coffee.”

    The thing is, most of your customers–and certainly most of your Millennial-generation (Gen-Y) customers–aren’t Will Ferrell. Unlike Will’s Buddy-The-Elf character, your customers didn’t grow up at the North Pole.  They grew up, instead, being bombarded by advertising claims since they were in utero.  And your customers not only don’t believe bold advertising claims, they’re suspicious of companies that make them.

    Seattle's truly best coffee ? by Micah Solomon micah@micahsolomon.com

    Is It Really Seattle’s Best Coffee? We’ll Never Know.

    Seattle’s Best Coffee (a brand now under the Starbucks umbrella) has a real-life issue similar to the NYC eatery in “Elf.” Is it really Seattle’s best coffee? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We’ll never know, because by baldly claiming superiority in their name, they’ve done enough to put the more jaded native or wannabe native Seattleites off its brew.

    To Be Great, Understate

    Understatement is one of the secrets of branding, marketing, and advertising in our post-credulity, social media-saturated, millennial (Gen Y) -influenced world.

    Understatement in itself isn’t enough to sell something.  But it allows room for the customers in your market to feel that they can discover your brand for themselves.

    And this room for discovery, for co-creation, is where the magic happens.

    Marketing, in other words, isn’t exactly dead. But it works interactionally with the customer experience. And excessive marketing claims can actually affect, negatively, the customer’s impression of that experience. In other words, buzz and respect for a brand online, in social media, and IRL (In the Real World) tend to follow what I call the Reverse Will Ferrell Principle.

    Do not feed raccoons sign florida

    Fawlty Towers of Hotel Hype

    Here’s an example from a recent hotel stay at a location in Florida that I will, out of mercy, leave undisclosed. On the one hand, the service at this hotel was pretty much fine.  And much of the food was highly edible. Yet I was peeved from the moment I got there. 


 The website’s copy that had enticed me to book the reservation in the first place.

    Here, let me quote from the hotel’s website:
    •  “Minutes from the airport” (it was thirty minutes — a $38 cab ride — from the airport)

    • “and minutes from the beach” (it’s 35--thirty-five--minutes to the beach; I couldn’t afford the cab ride so I never went)

    • “Located on a lush nature preserve” (the nature preserve had been closed three years earlier because venomous snakes bit too many joggers–a situation that sounds ripped from a novel by the great scribe of Floridian chaos and kitsch, Carl Hiassen)
”Incredible landscaping” (the landscaping is apparently all in the above-mentioned nature preserve; other than that, there’s concrete and fencing and signs warning me not to feed the raccoons).

    You can imagine the, uh, colorful hotel review I started writing in my head.  It would have been a notably different mental review  if I hadn’t been lured to the hotel by false marketing premises. 
Over-promises are a heavy load for any brand, no matter how good, to carry.

    Here Are Three Understated, Buzz-Friendly Approaches

    Some understated approaches that are more skeptic-friendly, more Millennial friendly, and ultimately more buzz-friendly:“Coming Soon-ish (A window poster for an upcoming –or upcoming-ish — Potbelly restaurant in Seattle)

    Potbelly buildout window sign: "coming soon-ish" ©micah@micahsolomon.com

    Probably The Best Beer in Town” (signage for Carlsberg in downtown Copenhagen)

    probably the best beer in town - carlsberg signage

    And perhaps my favorite, because it tells it like it is (sorry, I don’t have a photo):  A huge Miller Beer billboard I saw near an underpass in Chicago, with the copy “Ready For A Nice Macrobrew?”


    There’s a lot more to marketing to skeptics, millennial or otherwise.  But that’s enough for today.  I’m going to settle down with a nice, virtual macrobrew.

  • Pizza Hut’s Presidential Debate Marketing Ploy – Good Idea or Bad Publicity?

    Romney vs Obama Pizza Hut Marketing PloyAs you’ve probably heard, Pizza Hut recently offered a prize — a pizza a week for 30 years or a check for $15,600 — to anyone who posed the question, “Sausage or Pepperoni?” to either presidential candidate during the upcoming live Town Hall-style debate.

    Following a media backlash, the company retracted the contest and moved the promotion online, where a contestant will be randomly selected to win free pizza for life.

    This raises an interesting question that marketers will likely be debating all week: Was this a horrible PR blunder, or a unique headline-grabbing ploy?

    Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., the world’s largest restaurant company. As of 2012, there were more than 6,000 Pizza Hut restaurants in the United States, and more than 5,139 store locations in 94 other countries and territories around the world. In other words, it’s fairly likely that everyone knows about Pizza Hut.

    It’s reasonable to assume that Pizza Hut is not in a position where they need to increase brand awareness. Anyone who wants to order pizza knows who they are. It’s also reasonable to assume that this “blunder,” seen by many as a mockery of our country’s debate process, is not very likely to cause them to lose any customers. Anyone who orders from Pizza Hut will probably keep doing so, regardless of this issue.

    So what was the purpose, and what was gained?

    It’s my belief that Pizza Hut’s recent headlines reminded people that they are there. Many of these people, likely already previous customers of Pizza Hut, had a brief chuckle about the story and thought, “Hey, that sounds good.. let’s order Pizza Hut tonight!”

    If that is the cause, the promotion resulted in sales for the company, and therefore, achieved success regardless of the media backlash.

    What are your thoughts? Let me know in a comment, or email me your opinion.


    After just one short month of SEO work, our client, RHRStudios.com, is now #1 on Google and Bing for “Kitsap Recording Studio” and several other keywords/phrases they hired us to increase their ranking for!

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  • ‘Selling Out’ Vs. ‘Great Marketing’ – The Wu-Tang Marketing Plan

    When working with music artists and non-music related businesses, both in a music business capacity or a marketing capacity, I run into a lot of people who have this fear of “selling out.” Everyone defines selling out differently, but many people have some concept in their head and say things like, “I don’t want to sell out, I want to be like [insert favorite artist, brand, company, etc. here] – they did it the real way, grass roots!” In most cases, they are 100% wrong. With that in mind, this article is a GREAT read for everyone in that mindset. There’s a big difference between “selling out” and having a great marketing strategy.

    From: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/133906


    The Wu-Tang Marketing Plan

    by Jo Piazza

    Getty Images

    One of the most important singles in hip-hop history wasn’t great, or even particularly good. In fact, it was terrible. Even the most die-hard hip-hop fans probably haven’t heard “Ooh I Love You Rakeem,” the title track of Prince Rakeem’s 1991 debut EP, and there’s a reason for that.

    Prince Rakeem, a cartoonish, vaguely international ladies’ man, was a character foisted on rapper Robert Diggs by his record label. The Prince had just one concern. Women loved him too much, and he rapped about it. When the EP flopped, Prince Rakeem effectively died. But it wasn’t in vain—his demise gave birth to hip-hop’s greatest supergroup: The Wu-Tang Clan.

    Diggs’s failure as Prince Rakeem was actually a common career arc among his contemporaries. As Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of Russell Simmons’s website, Global Grind, tells it, in 1991 hip-hop was still confused about its identity.

    “Rap was just starting to get commercial and the record industry was trying to sell that to Middle America,” Skolnik says. “They didn’t want to scare people.”

    See for yourself in Prince Rakeem’s very NSFW video…

    Looking back, the Prince Rakeem gimmick seems impossibly campy. It was a lesson for Diggs. In his attempt to sell records, he’d sanded away his edges until he resembled a bubblegum caricature—a slightly raunchier version of Will Smith. And none of that led to sales.

    The record industry isn’t famous for handing out second chances. But instead of calling it quits, Diggs doubled down. For nearly two years, he meditated on how to break back into the business. Rather than cave to the record companies’ demands, Diggs dreamed of unleashing gritty, authentic hip-hop on Middle America.

    Diggs’s main problem as Prince Rakeem was pretty basic. He was miscast as the suave, approachable Casanova. Far from a lothario, he was something much more interesting: a chess player from the projects who was obsessed with old kung fu movies. If he was going to resuscitate his flagging hip-hop career, he needed support. Diggs drew inspiration from one of his favorite kung fu films, Five Deadly Venoms—he wanted to stand with an army of warriors.

    Back in Staten Island, Diggs decided to build a hip-hop supergroup from the ground up. He joined forces with his cousins Russell Jones (better known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard) and Gary Grice (otherwise known as the GZA) and six other friends to form the Wu-Tang Clan, a name poached from the kung fu flick Shaolin & Wu Tang. From that point forward, Diggs wasn’t Diggs anymore. He was reborn as RZA.

    The Benevolent Dictator

    There was only one rule in the Wu-Tang Clan: RZA was in charge. The rapper made a pact with his soldiers. He would become the de facto CEO of their musical tribe for its first five years, calling all the shots and producing all the albums. In return he promised that each member would become a famous MC in his own right. Instead of nine guys making grabs for the spotlight, the Clan would take their turns strategically, each raking in as much money as he could. RZA viewed the business plan as a high-stakes game of chess.

    After getting the eight headstrong MCs to sign on to the plan, RZA started doing market research. He quickly realized the power of good branding. If he could sell a rap group the same way corporate America peddled Pepsi or Nike, he could build an empire. But how do you sell rap like soda or sneakers? The solution was simple. “From day one, Wu-Tang had a logo—its iconic W—that was pushed across as many platforms as possible and stamped on every release,” Billboard’s Benjamin Meadows-Ingram says. “Wu-Tang worked its brand in every arena, famously establishing a wide business portfolio that included everything from T-shirts to skateboards to 1-900 numbers.”

    But even the world’s greatest marketing plan won’t work if the underlying product is weak. Luckily, the Wu-Tang Clan’s music was almost as revolutionary as its business model. RZA proved to be a genius as a producer. His sparse, repetitive loops sampled everything from old soul records to his beloved kung fu flicks, and the beautifully raw, eerie tracks provided the perfect canvas for the members’ rapping styles. The other eight MCs held up their end of the bargain, seamlessly slipping in and out of the beats, dropping hard-edged lyrics that managed to be aggressive and clever while tying in kung fu mythology. This wasn’t a manufactured sound—the words and music felt authentic, capturing all the harshness of the projects. Yet the tunes were catchy enough to win over suburban audiences.

    The group released its first single, “Protect Ya Neck,” on its independent label in 1992, and the song became an instant hit. To keep the momentum rolling, the members plastered the W logo all over New York City and outside any venue where they performed. The single’s grassroots success had record labels salivating to sign the group.

    But finding a company that would agree to rep Wu-Tang while still allowing the members to pursue solo projects was no small task. Amazingly, RZA convinced Loud/RCA to sign the act on his terms, and each rapper became a free agent.

    If RZA was a chess master, the record industry was an overmatched opponent. The group’s debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), went platinum, and it kicked off a streak of incredible commercial and critical success. When the first Wu-Tang solo record, Method Man’s Tical, sold more than a million copies, the message was clear. These kung fu aficionados weren’t typical rappers, they were a force to be reckoned with.

    Suddenly, there was no stopping the Wu-Tang Clan. And as promised, each MC got his moment in the sun. Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and the GZA’s Liquid Swords dropped in 1995. Both went gold and are considered hip-hop classics. Ghostface Killah followed suit with the critically lauded Ironman the next year. With the core music business thriving, the Wu-Tang Clan did what any successful brand does: it started franchising. A slew of affiliates released records of their own, and the group launched its own clothing line, Wu-Wear, grossing more than $5 million by 1998.

    And with each step, RZA seemed perfectly in control. He sat perched over the enterprise, carefully timing the release of solo records and crafting beats to complement the members’ wildly different styles, from Method Man’s throaty bravado to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s half-sung warbling. As his coauthor on The Wu-Tang Manual, Chris Norris, put it, RZA was the benevolent dictator who made the whole project work. RZA’s five-year stint as CEO culminated with 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever. The double album entered the charts at number one and eventually sold just over 4 million copies.

    When RZA and his Clan mates began their assault on the record industry, branding was a foreign concept in the hip-hop world. Two decades later, rappers like Jay-Z rule over giant empires of clothing lines and energy drinks. The Wu-Tang’s novel brand-first business model has become standard practice in the hip-hop world, and with good reason. You can’t improve on perfection.

    This article appears in the July-August 2012 issue of mental_floss magazine, available wherever brilliant/lots of magazines are sold. Get a free issue here!

    Read the full text here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/133906#ixzz25SSGkkRJ
    –brought to you by mental_floss!


  • Could Your Company or Service Benefit From Affiliate Marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. The industry has four core players: the merchant (also known as ‘retailer’ or ‘brand’), the network (that contains offers for the affiliate to choose from and also takes care of the payments), the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate’), and the customer. The market has grown in complexity to warrant a secondary tier of players, including affiliate management agencies, super-affiliates and specialized third party vendors.

    Affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree, because affiliates often use regular advertising methods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketing, and in some sense display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.

    Want to make money by encouraging your customers or supporters to promote your product or service? Want to be able to pay others to promote you, while automating the process and tracking statistics from an easy to use backend system?

    I can build your company or product(s) an automated affiliate tracking system that allows you to give customers, partners, or affiliates a unique URL to use to promote your company, product, or services, while simultaneously tracking their statistics and crediting them accordingly for any legitimate and qualified sales or leads they send your way. You determine the affiliate compensation – make it a percentage of sales, or a flat per-sale fee.

    Contact me for details.